We're a family on a 1 acre homestead in Central Florida. We're commited to raising our children in the Love of God and raising plants and animals in sustainable agriculture to feed them.
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Jelly... well, Almost
Its 4:30am and I'm blogging. Signs of an addict? Maybe.
Yesterday was a fun day. After being crazy busy all week, Friday afternoon was a nice time to be able to just cross a few things off the to-do list. We were beginning to have raisins forming on our muscadine vines so the cute little farm girl and I decided to pick them clean and make some grape jelly. Last week we processed about 3 gallons of grapes into syrup. We had almost 3 gallons left on the vine for this week. And some beauty berries were looking luscious and ripe. So we had an all out jelly fest. Unfortunately, none of the jelly set, but I now know why and can add the pointers as I go.
The pots on the left are grapes. The big pot on the right is the canner. The jug I'm holding is filled with beauty berries. I washed the grapes, put them in the pots (they all wouldn't fit in 1), added some water and let them cook down while we picked the beauty berries. Once the grapes were cooked, they mashed very easily with a potato masher. From there the instructions all say to separate the juice from the pulp through cheese cloth. I tried that... it doesn't work. The cheese cloth gets awfully plugged up and it makes a horrible mess. Instead, I poured it 3-4 cups at a time into a colander over a pot. I stirred the juice in the colander to keep it from plugging then dumped the pulp into a bucket for the goats. I got very few seeds in the juice and was able to strain those out very easily.
The goats enjoyed their sweet treat.
With the grape juice separated, I followed the recipe in the sure-jell package for concord grapes except that I didn't add the water. I figured I had already done so to get them to cook down enough to squish them. The problem here is that the recipes I've read since all say to not do more that 6 cups of juice at a time. I think I was doing 16-17 cups. Then the next problem was that it took forever to get it to boil. I had someone coming over for a "farm tour" and so neglected the proper cook time. I didn't think it would matter. It did. In fact, if you cook it long enough you can actually make jelly without pectin. I had been wondering just how they made jellies back before the time of Sure-Jell... well, that's how. This seems like a great recipe and the one I will be using next year. Also in this picture are the beauty berries cooking down. This recipe is one we had in the Florida's Wild Edibles handbook. You cook the berries down (which removes all the color from them and puts it in the juice!), 3 cups of the resulting infusion, 5 cups sugar, 1/2 cup lemon juice and 1 pack of pectin. Again, I was tripling this recipe. I ended up 3 cups short on the sugar and figured it would be close enough. Wrong again. Live and learn. The chickens really enjoyed the cooked beauty berries though!
So now that I have 18 pints of syrup, I'll probably be making pancakes this morning. Especially since I already made muscadine syrup with the last batch of grapes. I'm learning. God bless my grandmother who took all these secrets to her grave. I gleaned from her what I could as I was growing up, but frankly she wasn't much for teaching anyway. I've inherited all her canning equipment, antique meat grinder, even her treadle sewing machine, but learning to use these handy gizmos is all up to me and the internet. And I usually don't consult the internet until a problem arises. The good news is, if I really want to, I can open up all these jars and try it again. That's online too. We'll see. Husbandman is going to be gone all day with our newly constructed trailer helping some dear friends move. I've got a mess of weeds to pull and a turkey pen to make pasture-ready. I may have time this evening to play with it all... just 3 pints at a time.